Colombo Telegraph

Stop Attack On Those Seen As ‘Anti-Rajapaksa’ – Dr. Sara Goes HRC-SL

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu complain to Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka against malicious attacks through ITN On those seen as ‘Anti-Rajapaksa’ and urge for relief including steps to prevent future abuse of Channel to attack Civil Society

The Centre for Policy Alternatives and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu have today (August 12, 2013) filed an official complaint in the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka against the state-owned Independent Television Network (ITN), after a news report was published in its news bulletin in a deliberate attempt to smear CPA and its Executive Director. The CPA states that ITN chairman, Rosmand Senaratne who is made a respondent should be summoned to appear and explain this state of affairs. The Colombo Telegraph is reliably informed by sources that the complaint number allocated to the complaint is HRC/3083/13.

Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu

The Complainants have urged the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, to take the following measures:

a) Issue summons on the 2nd Respondent Rosmand Senarathne, Chairman of ITN to attend and appear before the Human Rights Commission to explain under oath the full circumstances of and reason for the wrongful publication;

b) Inquire into and investigate the complaint that the actions of ITN constitute infringement, continuing and imminent further infringement of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution;

c) Make a finding and declaration that the conduct of ITN has infringed the Fundamental Rights of the Complainants guaranteed under Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution;

d) Recommend that the act of ITN which gave rise to the infringement of the Complainants’ fundamental rights guaranteed under and in terms of Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution be addressed by the following three actions:

(1) Issuing a categorical public apology from ITN to CPA and its Executive Director, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu;

(2) Rectifying the erroneous news bulletin of 14th July 2013 in its next news broadcasts in the Sinhala, Tamil and English News Bulletins giving it the same publicity as the original broadcast; and

(3) Publishing an apology on the ‘homepage’ of the ITN website:

e) Recommend that in future, when ITN is reporting on the activities of CPA and/or its Executive Director, the prior comment of the Executive Director or any other responsible officer of CPA be ascertained;

f) Recommend that disciplinary proceedings be instituted and fully prosecuted against all persons accountable, responsible and involved in causing the publication of the said publication complained of hereby;

g) A sum of Rs. 10 million be paid to the Complainants by the Respondents as damages for damage and/or prejudice caused by the malicious, irresponsible and unprofessional reporting by ITN seeking to cause harm and prejudice to the CPA and its Executive Director through actions constituting and involving infringement of the Complainants’ fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution;

h) Inquire into and investigate this complaint that the actions of ITN as a State-owned and Government controlled institution demonstrate and/or strongly indicate and/or reflect continuing infringement and/or imminent infringement and/or further imminent infringement of Fundamental Rights guaranteed to other persons (including civil society activists and organizations) likely to be perceived as being critical and/or unsupportive of the Government under and in terms of Article 12(1), 12(2) and 14(1)(g) of the Constitution;

i) Recommend that when ITN, a State-owned entity is reporting on the activities of civil society activists and/or groups and/or organizations, it should put in place and continuously implement genuine and transparent mechanisms to ensure that their respective positions and/or views are also ascertained prior to publication of any news item(s) likely to adversely affect such activists and/or groups and/or organizations; and

j) Grant such further and other reliefs as may transpire to be necessary, which the Complainants shall request from the Human Rights Commission upon inquiry and investigation of the complaint.

Click here for the full complaint made by CPA and Dr. Saravanamuttu to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka which states the full facts.

The Rajapaksa regime has a strategy (or habit) of branding as ‘LTTE/terrorist sympathisers’, anyone who advocates civil rights, devolution of power for the Tamil minority or opposes the harsh clamping down of the right of democratic dissent/protest by the regime, as occurred recently in Weliweriya, with the army being made to file upon unarmed citizens including Buddhist monks protesting pollution of the area’s drinking water by a company controlled by casino man turned business tycoon, Dhammika Perera who is a confidante of the Rajapaksa family. According to a source very close to the government speaking on condition of anonymity, the CPA is being attacked in this way, for asserting the position that greater devolution and accountability ought to be considered as a means of nation building and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka and for having challenged various abuses of executive and legislative power by the Rajapaksa regime, in the public interest and to the discomfort of the regime.

ITN is a state-owned business undertaking, but has been abused for decades by parties in government to maliciously attack, defame and intimidate those out of favour with the ruling parties. It is widely considered even worse than Rupavahini TV, which is another state-owned public corporation similarly abused.

The complaint highlights how the particular news item complained of and similar actions are aimed against those seen as being critical/unsupportive of the ruling Rajapaksa regime and asks for several reliefs, not just for the benefit of the CPA, but also all others in Sri Lanka, including civil society activists/organizations.

It remains to be seen whether the Human Rights Commission takes any genuine action. All appointments, promotions and sackings relating to key judicial and public service positions (including to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka) are fully controlled by President Mahinda Rajapaksa after the controversial 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which did away with the safeguards introduced through the 17th Amendment.


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